“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.”
-Walter Anderson 1885-1962
Twenty trillion gallons of water have fallen on Texas since Thursday afternoon. Eighteen people have been killed, and some 30,000 displaced; and there’s more rain still to come. As levees are breached, and lives are swept away, some have taken to social media to heckle and harass the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
This despicable behavior puts on full display the cold and empty chambers of the heart of identity politics. With this in mind, I’d like to you to meet a man named Jeremiah:
In the video Jeremiah is walking hand in hand with his 6 year-old son. They’ve just been rescued from the storm. A reporter approaches, asking what happened. Jeremiah talks about the rain, and of being rescued. He then looks straight into the camera and says, “We thank God. We thank God. This all we got. We lost the car, all the clothes, school clothes, everything’s gone. Everything’s gone.”
The reporter asks where they’ll go next.
“We don’t know,” Jeremiah says.
“But you’re thankful?” the reporter asks, clearly taken aback by Jeremiah’s gracious thanksgiving to God in the wake of losing everything.
“Yeah, we’re thankful.”
Comic book writer J. Michael Straczynski once said that “for a lot of people, Superman is and has always been America’s hero. He stands for what we believe is the best within us: limitless strength tempered by compassion, that can bear adversity and emerge stronger on the other side. He stands for what we all feel we would like to be able to stand for, when standing is hardest.”
This is Jeremiah. He’s not pulling someone from a sinking car. He’s not the Cajun Navy. He’s not a first-responder working twenty straight hours saving lives. He can’t be. He has a son to take care of, and in that brief exchange Jeremiah gave us an honest glimpse of the private conduct of a father. Jeremiah, Jr. can look upon his father and see gratitude, humility, and strength; not the grievance and victimhood that is celebrated in our political life today. And I believe he will better off for it.
As I write this, I’m sitting on a porch in Tennessee with a couple of dogs at my feet. The sky is blue and the breeze is warm. My children are at school. My wife and I are sending flirtatious text messages to each other. It’s a good day for us, and I am genuinely grateful for it because tomorrow may not be as kind.
Later tonight we’re going to box up the supplies that we bought for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Toothbrushes, protein bars, water, Ramen. The kids picked out some candy bags for kids like Jeremiah, Jr. It’s not much but it’s everything we could do. Once the box arrives in Texas, we have no idea who will open it or who will receive the supplies inside. Perhaps those protein bars will be handed to a Bernie Sanders supporter. Maybe a member of Antifa will get one of the toothbrushes.
Jeremiah’s words are a welcome challenge: What will we show the world? When we reach the end of our rope, will we tie a knot and hang on, as Abraham Lincoln once advised? When you see Jeremiah do you see a Trump supporter getting his just deserts? Is Jeremiah deserving of misfortune for his faith in God? Does his opinion on tax reform warrant the loss of his home and everything in it?
As my wife and I teach our children to navigate through life, we’ll think of Jeremiah making his way down the road, holding the hand of his young son and we’ll thank God, too. We’ll thank God for men like Jeremiah.